When I was perhaps in 4th grade, my school organised a play as part of our Annual Day celebrations. The play was called, “I have a Dream”. Roughly 50 children participated in the play, most of them dressed like trees, flowers or butterflies creating the colorful background for the main story. Three days before the Annual Day, our class teacher called all the class out for rehearsals. Everyone left for their respective rehearsal. I was left alone in the class. I had no rehearsal to go to. I had not been picked for any role or any chore as part of the Annual Day celebrations. My teacher was baffled. How could she have missed me? The school always ensured everyone participated in some way. How was it possible that three days before the D Day, one child was not assigned a role?
I was not surprised. All through my school years, all I ever wanted was to shrink inside myself so that no one would notice me. Every day at school, while girls would talk and play, I would simply retreat into my virtual shell. It was cold inside the shell but it was always safe. Each day, I would pray that no one would find me inside there. At the end of the day, I would cry relentlessly thinking that no one tried hard enough to find me. Next day, I would hope that I was important enough to someone, so that, at least today, they would go out of the way to search for me. My little childish mind just couldn’t see so many people who were waiting for me outside my shell. In those days, I simply chose to believe that no one really cared enough for me. No one tried to find me. I think, this is what depression feels like for a child or for an adult. It is a vicious cycle that feeds onto itself and grows each day.
Nonetheless, my teacher had spotted me in spite of me trying my best to disappear. She allocated me a role in the play. I was made to stand on the last, highest bench dressed in a white frilly dress. She had chosen me to be a star.
Today, after more than 30 years of that fateful day, a random thought brought back memories of the play. I laughed in my heart thinking of my silliness. But soon the irony struck me. So many of us spend our lifetimes to become a star. We work hard, cheat, beat the competition just so that we can become stars. 30 years ago, an 8 year old child was a star but she didn’t even realize the importance of it. She didn’t even know what being a star meant. It meant that I had a whole solar system revolving around me. It meant that I was providing light and life to millions of species somewhere in the galaxy. It meant that I was so important to not one but billions of forms of life. But, in my 8 year old mind, I had simply chosen to believe that I was not important at all to anything or anyone.
For a moment, I felt sorry for the little me who didn’t know what a star was meant to be, who was so cocooned in that hard shell that she couldn’t see how tall she was even when she stood the highest. But then I smiled. I felt pride for being a star at such a young age, even though I hadn’t moved a muscle that day. But then stars are not supposed to move, they are just supposed to shine and be the source of life. Today, when I look around me, I see immense unconditional love from my family, my friends and of course my readers and I think I am still a star.